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Kentucky Geode Field Trip
[Click on the pictures for a larger view]
We left Broken Arrow, OK bright and early the morning of August 29th (4:00 am) and headed for Kentucky to join members of the Catawba Valley club for a weekend of geode and fossil collecting near Danville, KY. we drove the 860+ miles to my sister's place in Ezel, KY, about 100 miles east of Danville, in around sixteen hours, most of that in heavy rains and thunderstorms.
We spent the night at Ezel, and the following morning, Brandon and I headed for Danville and the proposed meeting spot at around 6:00 am, arriving in Danville at around 8:00 am. The rain had set in again, and kept up for some time that morning as we met with the others at the Holiday Inn Express. I recognized Mike right away from the picture on his book cover, and we met Chris, Opal, Harry, Ernie, and several other members of the Catawba Valley club.
After a short pow-wow to decide which site to collect at first, we hit the road headed south to the property of Mr. Phillips and the creek behind his house. The rain let up by the time we arrived, and although the creek was running pretty good, there was no shortage of geodes to be had, they were everywhere, ranging from the size of a golf ball to larger than a basketball. In the following picture you can see a large one sitting on the back of the truck.
Harry explained the general geologic features of the geode bearing layer above the ancient sea bed which is now a gray shale layer overlain by sediments, where the geodes formed either from pockets created by the escaping gasses from the decaying sea bed, or by the slow dissolution of iron concretions that were replaced by silica from the ground water. There are several theories as to how the geodes form, all seem to have merit. After a several hours of wading the creek, cracking geodes, shaking likely prospects to see if there were loose crystals inside, and marveling at the sheer abundance of them, everyone was pretty much ready to head back to town, dry off and get lunch. Brandon and I loaded up a couple of hundred pounds of geodes, most unbroken, to take home and cut. Many interesting formations were found inside the geodes, from clear quartz crystals to pseudomorphs (quartz after calcite).
After lunch, we all met back at the Holiday Inn around 2:00 pm, and it was decided to go look for fossils at an Ordovician outcrop about three miles south of Danville. There wasn't much parking space available so Mike and I parked west of the bridge below the road cut, while others parked alongside the cut in the narrow space there. As you can see from these pictures, this is a large cut, and there are several fossil bearing layers exposed in the hard shale. Some specimens were found weathered out, while others had to be extracted. That's Mike, Chris, and Opal in the third picture.
After about an hour, the rain caught up with us again, and while everybody else headed for dry quarters, Mike, Chris, and myself and Brandon stuck it out for a while. Brandon and I watched Mike make rubble out of a rock shelf that had collapsed, a rather large piece of limestone cap rock that had fallen from the upper layers of the cut, looking for calcite vugs containing dogtooth calcite. We checked out the rubble across the road and found Chris a nice slab of fossiliferous limestone full of nice brachiopods to take home, a nice display specimen. Eventually, the rain got the better of us, and Brandon and I finally decided to head back to Ezel for the night. Mike and Chris were still poking around the outcrop when we left.
The following morning we got up bright and early, and loaded up in the Suburban, myself, Brandon, Travis, (my 16 yr old, six-foot-seven offspring), my wife Regina, and Butterbean (the six-week old holy terror of a kitten). We met back in Danville at 8:00 am with the group and headed for the McClure farm at Crab Orchard, KY. The weather held out for us most of the morning while we collected more geodes, many similar to the ones from the previous day with a few interesting exceptions, Some of these had boytroidal chalcedony in them.
Now don't let Mike fool you, he says I tell tall tales about him and his escapades in the field, but he really does go after the biggest rocks with a hearty vigor as the following pictures will attest. Look for the biggest rock in the creek, that's the one Mike is wailing on with an eight pound sledgehammer and two-foot chisel...
If I didn't know better, I'd say I was getting a dirty look in that last one...
Harry and Ernie got busy after a while and decided to get out the pipe cutter and crack a few geodes. This gained some attention as everyone was getting tired of trying to crack them with hammers, and this seemed to do a rather nice job of splitting them open without doing a lot of damage.
The following picture #1 is Regina, Brandon, Harry's wife (Harry, correct me if I'm wrong here!), Harry's father-in-law (87 years young!), Opal, and Butterbean. Picture #2 includes Mike, and Travis (petting Opal).
Eventually, we had to vacate in a hurry, as there was a large severe thunderstorm rolling in on us. We could hear the thunder and see lightening strikes not too distant. Everybody loaded up pretty quick. and headed up out of the creek bottom to beat the rain in from the field. Most of us made it back to the road before the serious rain hit, Travis stayed down at the second gate to close it for stragglers (no names here!) We made plans to meet at the Wal-Mart in Stanton at 2:00 and head for our final stop of the day at Halls Gap, KY, for geodes, hopefully with Millerite inclusions.
Again, this is a rather large road cut at the top of a long grade. The site was closed for a time due to dangerous overhangs and undercutting. The state highway dept. finally came in and collapsed the cut for safety reasons, mainly to ward off a rock slide which could endanger motorists. After this the site was re-opened to collecting. Now, As I said before, Mike claims I tell tall tales, especially about him. So rather than elaborate here, I'll just include a few more pictures. Note that all of the dirt Mike is standing on in this next picture was part of the vertical cut bank when we got there..
Below are some more pictures of the time spent with great bunch of rock-hounds one weekend in Kentucky. I can't think of a better way to spend a weekend than with friends.
(Left to right) [Brandon] [Brandon and Mike]
[Chris, Ernie] [Mike, Harry, Chris, Ernie]
[Mike (look closely at the bank, this is the spot where the fluorescent geode came from), Harry, Chris & Opal, Ernie]
The following is one of the geodes from the shale that was found at the bottom of the cut, this one has quartz, boytroidal quartz, pyrite crystals, and under close inspection, a couple of needles of Millerite.
All in all, everyone had a great time, and I am personally looking forward to the opportunity to join the group next year for another geode splittin' good time in Kentucky. Ya'll come back now, ya'hear?
Copyright 2003 Virgil G. Richards
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VIRGIL G. RICHARDS